Most of the executives interviewed for the 2019 edition of the Business Barometer: Qatar CEO Survey carried out by Oxford Business Group (OBG) were positive about the economic outlook for the coming months, despite having had to grapple with fluctuating commodity prices and a regional embargo over the past 18 months.
As part of its survey on the economy, the global research and consultancy firm asked more than 100 C-suite executives from across Qatar’s industries a wide-ranging series of questions on a face-to-face basis aimed at gauging business sentiment.
When asked, 84% of respondents said they felt positive or very positive about local business conditions in the near term. Just over half (51%) of those interviewed told OBG that they expected full-year economic growth to reach between 2% and 3% in 2019, just below the IMF’s forecast of 3.1%, while almost one-fifth (18%) gave an estimation of between 3% and 4%.
In another sign that Qatar’s efforts to enhance its business climate are delivering results, 56% of executives surveyed said they believed the sector in which they operate is ready to implement value-added tax ahead of its introduction, reflecting the International Monetary Fund’s observations in November when its delegation praised the country’s prudent fiscal policy, healthy financial system and accelerated structural reforms that were taking place.
With a raft of infrastructure projects under way and more in the pipeline as Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup gain pace, there were also indications of the key skills that business leaders believe are in high demand locally.
From the executives interviewed, 25% cited engineering skills as those most in need, closely followed by management, which was chosen by 24% of respondents, well ahead of computer tech, and research and development, which were placed third and fourth respectively.
Unsurprisingly, respondents cited regional political volatility as the top external event they felt was likely to weigh on Qatar’s economy in the short to medium term, beyond movements in commodity prices.
Billy FitzHerbert, OBG’s regional editor for the Middle East, said the general consensus among business leaders interviewed was that Qatar had not only weathered the storm of the embargo, but had come out fighting.
“While one might understandably suspect a case of over-bullishness here on the part of Qatari companies, digging down into the figures reveals that the sentiment is shared by both locals and foreigners alike: just under half (43%) of the CEOs we surveyed were heads of non-local companies,” he noted.